Monday, June 28, 2010

The Chess Analogy

WFB 8th Edition Commentary.

It's been a slow month for the blog, had a few setbacks, namely my basement flooding again after the biblical like rains here of late which called for a time consuming total reorganization and clean out. I haven't played a game of Fantasy Battles since the end of May. My Empire army is still in its cases and while I knocked out the that skirmish dungeon board and played a couple games of the new Warhammer Ancient Battles my mind has really been on Warhammers new edition.

I've spent a good deal of time talking and reading about it, and while my first attempt to make it into my local shop to get a game in with the book was rained out (the area floods I mentioned) I have spent some time (2 sit downs) with the rulebook, read the new White Dwarf and the games designers comments. I've also talked to seasoned players, for and against who have played the new edition. While there are things I like and definitely don't like, the big picture is clear to me now and clarity is always a good thing.

7th Edition competitive Warhammer as we knew it now is dead. Potentially still in its last throes somewhere for another few weeks but to most who have thoroughly read the new rules, its dead and buried. Occasionally GW surprises me as they often seem to blindly stumble along unaware of the troops of the ground their wants, needs and motivations unacknowledged but somehow accidentally appeased by unending stream of new toys for us all to play with. however As far as Warhammer is concerned its clear that GW did see what was going on all those miniature battlefields across the globe and didn't like what it was seeing.

Unfortunately for many, competitive miniature gaming is viewed as a sport, its all about list tailoring, number crunching, statistical analysis and game faces. GW reinforced this by pushing events like Ard'd Boyz and calling a stop to their own GT's and letting Indy RTT's take over the Tournament circuit. They gave the keys to the store to their customers to see what would happen and have realized that the thing being lost most, was the thing held dearest to them..the hobby. (yes- I know all you cynics said "money")

Here comes WFB 8th Edition, a complete antithesis to the studied, number crunching, statistical probabilities of its former wargaming pseudo sport. If you've spent years being able to discern 8 from 10 inches with the naked eye or could calculate the odds of specific combat result down to a margin of 1 in your head for every unit on the table, you will find these skills no longer required in any great degree. Because WFB 8th may be allot of thing but one thing it is in spades is random.

Random is a sports fans worst nightmare; they want hard probabilities based on skill, practice, and dedication.

They demand the likes of Michael Jordan, and recoil in horror at a Steve Bartman. 8th Ed's loose movement, random charges, random spell dice, fighting by initiative and models always being able to fight back until there are no more to fight all work against the way the game has previously been played in a new level of randomness that is sure lose as many new fans as it gains.

A 528 page rulebook packed with back story, and photo's of miniatures is there for one purpose. The celebration of the hobby in all its splendor over celebrating the rules of the game. The easing up of the army organization chart and change from pitched battles to predetermined mission/scenarios is all geared toward you putting a well themed Warhammer force on the table, with special characters abound. I'm seeing the direction of game almost being a war game in the style and context in what you find in a...dare I say it: "role playing game".

All this of course will have a serious impact on the current RTT scene, which attempts to create either through composition or lack of, a balanced playing field (depending on your poison, comp or no comp) so it can be decided in a sports-like manner who the best player of the day is. We'll have to see how it goes, of course but I don't see 8th edition meeting the demands of hard core tournament goers, as is. One view is the game will get compressed down into a cookie cutter list, dice fest that marginalizes randomness as much as possible and inevitably fall into the trap that was 40K 4th Edition. (where miasma within the tourney scene will eventually lead to people losing interest all together.)

The flip side is people will embrace the new game for what it is and 8th Edition tournaments will be more of hobby events that embrace expanded soft scores, with games of pre-designed scenarios that will enable any person of marginal skill to win the day with a bit of luck. ( I think we may need to go thru the former to get to the latter)

Again this reverts back to my old "A versus B" arguments of the past, 8th edition at face value is clearly a game for "Type B" players. "Type A" players will find themselves out in the cold inevitably whittling away those 528 pages down to a handful of units of that minimize the potential randomness, in order to maximize the odds to "win"... however it's clear to me Warhammer 8th Edition isn't too about winning, it's about putting all those painted models down on the table and having a great aesthetic experience and a good time.

You would think, as a self described "B player" I would rejoice in these changes, but the tactician and war gamer in me doesn't. Part of me longs for knowing I always have an 8 or 14 inch charge, or knowing what my magic dice are or knowing my bound spells will always go off, or knowing enough kills on the charge will break an enemy unit without it ever getting the chance to strike back. Part of me revels in the fact that I'd never see Archeaon or Mannfred Von Carstein on the table at a tournament.

Having played the new Warhammer Ancient Battles, in which designers clearly went the opposite rout of 8th Edition WFB, by diving deeper into 7th edition rules and exploring more complicated possibilities of movement and combat. I find myself deeply drawn to the possibilities by studying this game, and it's reality that ancient warfare was as complicated then, as modern warfare is today

Clearly with Warhammer 8th edition gaming at shops or at home with friends will remain fun, easier to learn, and casual. The competitive tournament scene will adapt to either one that embraces the hobby in a way that is as all encompassing as the new rulebook lies out, or be it one that tries minimizing the purposeful randomness of new rule set and attempts to capture that focal point that was middle days of 7th edition. Perhaps even both for a time, but in the end only one will dominate and that will depend on the meddle of the players, old and new and the stomach for change.

In closing, I'm excited about the possibilities 8th Warhammer edition brings, I still love the miniatures and in GW's own words that's the key focal point of their existence. I look forward to new events, and new takes on old events. I look forward to new ways of playing old armies, and playing new ones. Reading the book clearly does make the game sound fun!. But I also look forward to pursing other games that push more in-depth tactical and strategic thinking through their focus on rules, not just for competitive purposes but for the mental challenges that it brings. "If you want fair and nonrandom, play Chess!" I read somewhere earlier this week, If you want an epic contest of monsters, heroes and hordes of troops, in which anything can and will happen- play Warhammer!. True and fair enough. I'm looking forward to all of it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Skirmish Battle Board- Done!

Well almost.. a few minor details and props to do. Chris and I played a game on it tonight and had a damn good time. If your curious about the particulars:
How long did this take?- at least 80 hours over the last 6 weeks....with casting maybe more...
How much did it Cost?- I bought some Hirst Molds specifically for this and they get pretty pricey (around $100 for the 3 of them), but they're mandatory for future pieces now that my casting is solid so I consider them a hobby investment over a project expense.. Take those out of the equation and its $10 worth of dental plaster, $20 of Lumber and Masonite, $10 worth of Cork, some cheap craft paint to augment your hobby paints, some other cheap miscellaneous materials...I plan using some water effects so another $10 for a bottle of that..all in maybe $60, if you include the handles ($5 each) but I had those extra from our Kitchen redo.

Still talking about doing an upper level that stacks on to this and you go down thru into
this level.

If all goes to according to plan, You can see this at Adepticon, next year where it will show up for The next Legends of the High Seas event, although in the meantime we plan on using it for other games as well. If you have Questions about how I did any of this, fire away.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Skirmish Battle Board 2..WIP

I jumped the gun a bit on posting photos for this the other day, so here is an update. all the dungeon pieces are complete and painted. I just need to do the stairs which can't be put in until I get the design for the upper section complete.

Here you go (Tim) the prison. The torturer is a reaper figure, I gave a quick base coat and wash and blood stains..have a whole torture chamber of equipment from some old set I have from the 80's that will decorate.

Prison cells

Long view, there are two cavern sections still coming..I am trying to do them from pink foam but I may bite the bullet and do cavern molds from hirst. One cavern section is on the left between the two rooms behind the fireplace. The other behind the Prison area. The stair area attaches to empty hallway on the right.

Kitchen Area.

You can see some finished props here, there are bunch more coming, but I did cut the list down as too many props make it difficult to move figures around, being playable is key. Working on some custom rules for this as well. I'll probably use the Blip system for LoS (ala Space Hulk) and there is blind random placement of forces for the defender. Again using High Seas, LotR rules..I might even do a mash up. As this is playable now..I'll try some games on it this coming tuesday.

The base the whole thing sits in is done as well, (the Carpentry portion anyway) Finish up the props tonight..the basic foam sections sun/ tuesday..then figure out the upper section
as the next project...More soon!.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Skirmish Battle Board

I mentioned early in the year that this summer was going to be the summer of Skirmish games for me and it's looking like its panning out that way.

Since around early May I have been tinkering on and off with a new Terrain Project. With some serious inspiration from my pal Tim at Cursed Treasures, I returned to casting Hirst Arts blocks, in order to build the Ruined Tower Piece similar to his. It wasn't a huge surprise that things went sideways on me, in that special "A.D.D" hobbyist way and this turned into a completely different project.

While getting my casting legs back with the Ruined Tower, (I have two molds, one owned, one borrowed) I just gotten to having enough blocks complete for the initial project when I started looking at all the flagstone floor tiles I was casting in that mould with any extra liquid I have from each batch..I then started pouring Fieldstone blocks as well.

If you've done any work with Hirst Blocks, you know as I do, its harder than it looks to get good results( like anything I guess) not only the casting but the building are both acquired skills if you want things to look good. since I was badly out of practice and my previous Hirst Builds were not too stellar.(not too happy with my Osgiliath Tables, City Tiles) I quickly realized that Fieldstone was a much more forgiving block than some of the others I was working with. And my Modular Fieldstone Dungeon was born. I quickly envisioned a 2' x 2' Battle Board portable as a companion piece to my pal Rich's Pirate Castle, this would be the "Pirate Castle Dungeon" so to speak, but perfect acceptable for any type of Skirmish game.

Fieldstone (or Flagstone) floor tiles are 1 inch I got out some graph paper and laid out floor plan and how many floor tiles I need. Quite a few it turned out...there are 10 in the mold and I need easily over I went to work casting in my free time and spending my monthly hobby budget on a couple more molds. As this project has developed..I decided to add the above ground wilderness section as well. There will be a 2'X 2' roof that a playable surface allowing you travel down thru into the Dungeon level. On paper this seems easy enough using removable layers of Pink foam and removable supports.

The basic 11 sections of the Board are complete and feature modular doorways, some with and some without doors. I wanted to keep it as flexible as possible for future use..there are a ton of props (including secret doors) cast as well from the various great Hirst accessory molds. I'm already well into Painting several of the pieces and this thing should be playable this weekend, where I am going to do the carpentry for the base and box its going to live in and the next step will be the Earthen sections and Cavern section (pink foam) before finally moving on to the upper level.

I plan on using this for Legends of the High Seas/ LotR SBG and single campaign scenario, or just general Fantasy skirmish gaming. I love the concept of the 2' x 2' Battle Board..and I am having so much fun with this..I am going dig in and get as much done as possible before the release of WFB 8th comes in a month steals back my attention.

I'll follow up with some insight on how did some of the stuff here, once the bottom section is 100% done and I get some detail photographs, more photos coming for sure.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WAB Night!

Club Night @ Plastic Legions HQ 6/1

Rich has done a nice job on his WAB stuff and owns several painted armies

Last night we met for our Bi Monthly club night, it was preplanned as an evening of the new Warhammer Ancient Battles. Five of us in attendance and most of us have the makings of various WAB forces..I have a ridiculous amount of Celts due my interest in WAB over the last 3 years and release of a ton of plastics for the game during the same time frame. I fielded a straight up 1000 points of Celt Barbarians right out of the new Book and Billy did the same with Imperial Romans. Rich had 2000 points of Rome and Carthage, out of the Hannibal book and finally Chris was packing 2000 points of Macedonians..3 huge phalanx's of pikes..2 units of Cavalry, some Skirmishing Cavalry and lots of foot Skirmishers.Chris and I played 1000 points face off early just to demo the rules Celts vs Macedonians, in which my ability to roll ridiculous amount of "6"'s for armor saves won me the day. Do to my shortage of "ready to play" models..I did run three characters, barbarian characters are very powerful considering particularly the Shaman.

The full shot of the battle lines, our turn moving ahead
excuse the unpainted models here..still figuring out what
the heck to even focus on..

After defeating the Macedonians the 5 of us set up on the 4 x 8 and did a 3000 point game of Rome / Carthage against Macedonians with Barbarian Allies..we definitely had more troops, then our opponents but they certainly had the better troops overall. I really like the the new charts for determining terrain, after which we had an open battlefield with large hill on one flank and two big patches of rough, one dead center, and one near the other flank. We piled all our skirmishers in the middle since they would not be impeded by the rough, The bulk of the Barbarians, the cavarly and the chariots where on the left, with the Pikes and some skirmishers on the right to deal with the heavy Roman Armor. Our Skirmishers and my Barbarians broke thru the center early and separated the Roman lines and a few turns later almost collapsed the entire left flank. The Romans were making some headway on right and last turn I had two units fleeing that 'if" rallied I would have brought to the right flank to aid. Before that came to be however, we called the game (after 3 hours and midnight). In the end it was slight advantage our way but can't say we won.

Barbarians taunting our lines..

That's the thing about WAB, things can change, radically every turn- thanks to the biggest single arbitrator of the game: Psychology!. Those familiar with the current 7th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles will find themselves in comfortable surroundings with the new WAB. The game is more like 7th Ed WFB, then the previous edition. However, Psychology is completely different and Panic is a huge dynamic. You must test for panic, not only if someone else breaks within 12 huge inches of you, but if a fleeing unit is within 6 inches of one of your units at the top of your turn Then that unit will need to make a Panic check as well, before moving, or declaring a charge. Furthermore, even if you win your combat but an allied unit nearby loses and breaks..your winning must test before your overrun, even if engaged in combat!. Given average leadership in WAB is much lower than its Fantasy cousin, you will fail alot of panic tests.

These intense Psychology rules do present a very accurate depiction of the chaos of an ancient battlefield, where drilled and disciplined soldiers held their ground over untrained hordes, men and beasts running wildly from combat to combat on the battlefield. and the huge battlefield is made up of dozens of individual skirmishes and you have clear, drawn and formed battlelines There is alot more going on in WAB ruleswise than I have time to illustrate here. When the evening concluded is was clear we all had a great time, and the general overview of the new rules is that they are great.

Chris's Macedonians...

In comparison to WFB, the 8th edition of WFB is definitely going to be a streamlined much simpler game from its current edition, while WAB on the other hand has taken the oppposite approach with 7th going in the more detailed direction. I think both games will have there niche..with two, different and appealing flavors. Personally WAB is now (and was) incredibly tactical..I my two games, I had easily a half dozen ideas on how to better my Celt army. 8th ed WFB should be tactical as as well but in completely different manner. Where WAB focuses on standard military tactics, the new WFB will focus on marginalizing losses and maximizing combat resolution, within all the things infantry, support, huge monsters, and heroes can bring. The new Warhammer Fantasy Battles is going to be more of a standard miniatures "game" where Warhammer Ancient Battles is even now more of a head on- military simulation.

Three Roman Units...outnumbered almost 2 to 1 I put the majority of my infantry into these guys, Barbarians broke them, this time.

I'd recommend trying out the new WAB rules to see if it suits your style of gameplay. Be prepared for much steeper learning curve that goes much deeper into the possibilities with 7th ed, then the future progress you'll see with the streamlining of a new WFB edition. Look for more WAB taking place right here for sure!

Fleeing Romans in the rear, Barbarians push ahead!


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